By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
The Nation Weekend
ON A serene patch off Sukhumvit 31 in Bangkok, the restaurant Haoma – a two-storey house with a backyard garden lush with edible greens – is named for a divine plant from Persian mythology.
This is indeed a green destination, where the zero-waste principle is pursued and all the ingredients have been raised free of pesticides and antibiotics. The owners have the big beautiful backyard as well as a four-rai farm in Chiang Mai.
Fruit and vegetables are served about 48 hours after harvest in the belief that that’s primetime for their component nutrients. They come from small, local producers whose methods are certified as environmentally and ethically responsible.
Haoma takes a sustainable approach to “progressive” cuisine with its farm-to-table meals.
A visit to Haoma typically begins with a short tour of the garden with the proprietor and executive chef, Deepanker “DK” Khosla from India, who proudly shows off his integrated “aquaponics” system where fish and plants grow together.
Wasabi mizuna, Indian borage and French roselle are among the herbs under cultivation in beds, while six large vats, each containing 500 litres of rainwater, hold pla nil – Nile tilapia fish.
Whatever food waste emanates from the kitchen ends up in the fish bellies and then the fish waste fertilises the plants, which in exchange filter the water in which the fish live.
In the backyard garden grow a variety of edible plants and herbs.
“It’s a carbon-neutral system,” Khosla explains. “Each tank can hold about 100 fish and the rainwater is constantly recycling. I got the idea while camping at Kaeng Krachan Dam in Phetchaburi, where the reservoir was full of pla nil initially raised by King Bhumibol. He encouraged people to breed this fish because it grows quickly and is rich in protein.”
By the end of next year, says Khosla, who also runs the restaurant Karma Kismet in New Delhi, Haoma will be zero-waste.
Pla nil, a fish highly recommended by King Bhumibol, is cultivated in constantly recycling rainwater.
“We’ve already reduced about 80 per cent of the waste and the rest depends on our suppliers. We’ll stop using suppliers who use diesel trucks – they have to run on CNG [compressed natural gas]. And we give our vegetable suppliers cotton bags to use for deliveries so there’s no need for plastic. The meat we get in recyclable containers.”
The indoor dining area is predominantly wood and chock-full of decorative plants. There’s also an outdoor deck in the backyard with low tables.
For the cool season, Khosla has unveiled menus of nine courses (Bt1,990) and 13 courses (Bt2,590) that draw inspiration from the mountains of Chiang Mai, the Gulf of Thailand and the little urban “farm” on Sukhumvit 31.
Chef Deepanker “DK” Khosla gathers herbs for the evening serving.
He characterises the cuisine as “progressive”, with frequent spicy kicks in a nod to both the chef’s homeland and his adopted land.
“The dishes reflect my roots and my journey so far in Thailand,” he says. “I’ve been living here for five years and I travel regularly to experience different flavours. I want to bring all these elements to my food.
“The menu presented to the guests is like a map of Thailand and they can travel to different provinces in different courses. Sakon Nakhon is popular for its pon yang kham beef, for example, Buri Ram for its wagyu and Ayutthaya for its river prawns.”
Galauti Cornets are a spicy, slightly tangy opening pop to waken the taste buds. They’re tiny pastry cones served on a tree branch and they’re filled with wild mushrooms, 13 Indian spices, local hed tob (black mushroom) and citrus gel.
Oyster & Corn Tartar
Oyster & Corn Tartar is a cracker holding slices of oyster and abalone from Phuket, cooked with cilantro and yuzu lemon. It’s topped with a “deconstruction” of corn soup that ends up looking like corn kernels.
Khosla says his Melon Terrine combines what he loves most about green and red Thai curries, massaman and tom kha (coconut soup with galangal). It features three chunks of melon – red, green and yellow – capped with tom kha ice cream. On the side is foam that’s flavoured just like massaman, green curry and tom kha.
Arriving in a wooden box is Cured Wheel, which Khosla says “represents Haoma in one bite”. Here you have 15 different herbs grown in the backyard and some of that pla nil too. It’s a roll-up with a rice cracker at the centre, encircled with layers of dashi, the Haoma greens and fish, and raisin jam, all with a ginger-and-lemon dressing.
Also presented cold is tikka masala, in which charbroiled chicken meets cottage cheese, makhani and pickled shallot. Khosla says he’s had success tackling the “challenge” of presenting chilled versions of dishes normally served hot – like green curry, tom kha and tikka masala.
Wagyu Short Ribs
Wagyu Short Ribs tap into the Buri Ram supply for 100-gram servings presented with eggplant gel, buckwheat seeds and a foam of fermented buckwheat, plus home-made miso paste and mushrooms on the side.
Black and White
The delicious dessert is called Black and White, the “White” being ice cream made with fresh cream and milk and dehydrated yoghurt, and the “Black” charcoal ice cream with home-made cookie crumble.
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Haoma on Sukhumvit Soi 31 is open Tuesday through Sunday, daily from 6pm to 11pm.
Call (02) 258 4744 or visit www.Haoma.dk.